Last month Naomi Corteen launched her solo exhibition Non-Fiction Fantasies at Bivs. Our art curator Martin E Wills took a little time out to chat with Naomi about her recent works and life as an artist.  

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Congratulations on the successful opening night of your new exhibition "Non-Fiction Fantasies"! How are you feelin?
Honestly the validation that you receive from a successful opening night is so uplifting - I’ve been buoyed up by both the support of friends and other artists in the community, as well as of family. The show opened about a month after I got home from a two month stint in the UK and Europe, and my travels had me thinking a lot about the general state of the arts in Perth - I feel spurred on to get the wheels rolling on a bunch of new projects, all with a renewed faith and love in the artistic community in our little city.

How long did this show take to come to fruition?
I started on the earliest of these pieces in 2016, and slowly built up the current collection over the last two years. Collage is something that I will sit down to do either when I’m brimming with a particular emotion that I want to channel forth, or when I simply feel like the repetitive motions of selecting, cutting out, and arranging will serve to calm my mind. So all up it’s been a two year process.

"Non-Fiction Fantasies" is an evocative title. Can you elaborate?
When grouping all of these pieces together I wanted to reference the source material - books, periodicals, annuals etc. So it’s a sort of play on genre, and a reference to the fact that overwhelmingly the source material would be of a non-fiction nature - National Geographics, science annuals, biographies, educational materials, but the content of those publications has been removed from its original context and reimagined. The process of collage making has often helped me to access notions and feelings that were mostly residing in my subconscious, hence the “Fantasies” element of the title.

When did you start making collage and what draws you to the medium?
I began working with collage in 2014. I had taken a long hiatus from making art due to burnout and long running issues with crippling perfectionism. Collage took away all the mental pressure that I had put on myself around drawing and painting by giving me ready made images to work with, and the means to have fun with the creative process again. My early work is mainly just centered around fun and inconsequential ideas, and the more contemplative and complex pieces slowly emerged as my practice developed.

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How do you even start when you're creating an artwork?
I have some themes that I enjoy expressing over and over again - the feeling of hope that science fiction and scientific discovery inspire in me, mental health and the journey toward self knowledge, betterment of the self and society, and the historical context or nostalgia that is always going to imbue an old publication - so if I’m not creating from a base image with a specific situation or emotional experience in mind, I’ll have those themes to start from, and will collect images that echo those themes. Then I just start arranging working from background to foreground, and a cohesive image will either come or it won’t!

I also have a filing system of images that I find symbolic or evocative - birds, animals, mountains, and so on, that I can go to instead of trawling for hours through my collage books. That idea actually came from a friend who mentioned that Joan Rivers would file her jokes away by subject matter so that she always had inspiration for material close at hand, and if there’s anyone who I’m going to model a career off it might as well be her!

When you're not in the studio, what are you up to?
I’m an avid reader, another reason why working from books makes so much sense to me. My other major hobby/passion is hunting in op-shops for vintage clothing, I’m obsessed with the history that clothing and objects can contain and represent. I love that anything produced in the last hundred years will represent some aspect of its historical context in its design, and the availability of such things to a collector. Plus, I run a vintage clothing market stall so that I can share that passion with others! And maybe also to prevent the collecting from overrunning my house!

Where can we see more of your work?
I’m most active on Instagram as @noam_chumpsky_art but this exhibition has spawned another project, so I’ll also be exhibiting again in the next six months. Thanks Bivouac!

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